Juventus and Atletico Madrid will begin their UEFA Champions League campaigns when they go head-to-head at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday.
Matchday 1 of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group Stage comes to an end on Wednesday, with teams from the remaining four groups being in action. The marquee fixture of Group D will be played on the night, as Atletico Madrid play hosts to Juventus at the Wanda Metropolitano in a rematch of last season’s Round of 16 tie.
Atletico Madrid have started the 2019-20 season on a decent note, although they were handed their first defeat of the campaign this past weekend, as they were beaten 2-0 by Real Sociedad. Nevertheless, Los Rojiblancos are second on the La Liga table, a point behind Sevilla and they can now turn their attention towards the UEFA Champions League.
Their opponents, Juventus, too saw their perfect start to the season ending before the midweek fixture. The Bianconeri were held to a goalless draw by Fiorentina, which means they trail Inter Milan by two points, sitting third on the Serie A table. Having embarrassingly gone out of the Champions League at home against Ajax last term, they will be keen on making an impact this time around.
As iterated earlier, Atletico Madrid and Juventus locked horns in the Round of 16 last season, with Juventus coming out on top after overcoming a two-goal deficit thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the UEFA Champions League encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Diego Simeone has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Juventus on Wednesday. But, chief among the fitness issues that the Atletico Madrid manager has on his hands is that of Jan Oblak, after the Slovenian picked up a head injury at Real Sociedad.
In case Oblak is not fully fit, it is likely that Simeone will not risk his first-choice goalkeeper, meaning Antonio Adan has a good chance of starting between the sticks for Atletico Madrid against Juventus. The other injury troubles concern Thomas Partey (hamstring), Alvaro Morata (knee) and long-term absentee Sime Vrsaljko (knee).
For the aforementioned trio, however, Simeone has enough cover in his squad to compensate for their absence. Up ahead in attack, Diego Costa is expected to be accompanied by Joao Felix in the hosts’ strike partnership in the absence of Morata.
Indeed, Simeone will line his side up in a familiar 4-4-2 formation, with defensive solidity being the chief focus. Partey’s absence means summer signing Marcos Llorente will start as Atletico Madrid’s holding midfielder, with Saul Niguez being his central midfield partner. Koke and Vitolo should be the two wide midfielders for the Colchoneros, with the duo sitting narrow to create overloads.
The backline should see one change, with Mario Hermoso replacing Stefan Savic, starting alongside Jose Gimenez at the heart of the Atletico Madrid defence. Renan Lodi and Kieran Trippier should be the two full-backs, with Santiago Arias missing out once again.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Adan; Trippier, Gimenez, Hermoso, Lodi; Vitolo, Llorente, Saul, Koke; Costa, Felix
Maurizio Sarri has plenty of issues pertaining to injury troubles ahead of his side’s UEFA Champions League opener. Against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, the Juventus boss could be without as many as nine first-team players.
The biggest problem for Sarri is the right-back slot, after Danilo sustained cramps against Fiorentina. With Mattia De Sciglio already out with a thigh injury, it is likely that the Juventus manager will have to depend on Juan Cuadrado to start as a makeshift right-back.
Fortunately for him, the remainder of the defensive line is nearly at full strength, with Giorgio Chiellini the only regular out due to a long-term knee injury. In Chiellini’s absence Matthijs de Ligt will continue to partner Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of the Juventus defence, with Alex Sandro completing the backline.
Wojciech Szczesny should take his place in goal against Atletico Madrid, with Gianluigi Buffon being his backup, seeing as Mattia Perin remains unavailable due to a shoulder injury. There are further issues in midfield, with Miralem Pjanic a major doubt due to a thigh injury, while Emre Can is not even a part of the Juventus Champions League squad.
As a result, a lightweight midfield unit should see Adrien Rabiot start alongside veterans Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi. Douglas Costa is a fresh injury concern as well and his absence should catapult Federico Bernadeschi into the starting lineup, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain being certain starters.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Sandro; Rabiot, Khedira, Matuidi; Bernardeschi, Higuain, Ronaldo
- Juventus and Atletico Madrid will meet for the fifth time in the UEFA Champions League. They met in the 2014-15 Group Stages, with the Spaniards winning at home (1-0) and drawing away (0-0), before Juventus knocked them out last term in the Round of 16 after turning around a 0-2 deficit from the 1st leg and winning 3-0 in the 2nd leg at home.
- Italian clubs have won just four of their last 27 trips away to Spanish teams in the UEFA Champions League (D3 L20). However, the last three of these victories have been by Juventus; at Sevilla in 2016-17, Real Madrid in 2017-18 and Valencia in 2018-19.
- Atletico Madrid have lost just one of their eight UEFA Champions League meetings with Italian clubs (W5 D2), but this solitary defeat came against Juventus in the Last 16 stage in Turin back in March (0-3); their last Champions League match before Wednesday.
- Since Diego Simeone’s first UEFA Champions League game as Atletico Madrid manager in September 2013, they have kept more clean sheets than any other team in the competition (34).
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in his career against Atletico Madrid; only against Sevilla (27) has he scored more in all competitions. This includes a hat-trick against them in the UEFA Champions League last season.
Player to Watch
By his lofty standards, Cristiano Ronaldo had a rather average UEFA Champions League campaign last season. While he did come into life in the knockout stages, his output was nowhere near the levels he displayed during his final few seasons with Real Madrid.
In fact, half of his six goals came in the Round of 16 second leg against Atletico Madrid. The Colchoneros are one of Ronaldo’s favourite opponents and the UEFA Champions League curtain-raiser against the Spanish giants could be the best game for the veteran to regain his best touch in the competition. Another hat-trick on the cards?
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Juventus
A blockbuster clash between Atletico Madrid and Juventus in Group D has not exactly been set up all that well. Neither side has been all too convincing going forward in the early stages of the season while also being uncharacteristically susceptible at the back.
But, Atletico Madrid hold the slightest of edges ahead of Wednesday’s fixture due to Juventus’s lightweight midfield. Either way, there should be goals in this game, with both sides managing to find the back of the net. The Hard Tackle though, predicts a win for Atletico Madrid by the odd goal, with the Spaniards handing Juventus a 2-1 loss.